I was once told the definition of insanity was to do the same thing every year and expect different results. If that's the case, I believe most businesses in this country, including IT resellers, are insane!
Let's use the humble Christmas card as an example. Over 90 per cent of businesses in this country send some form of Christmas greeting to their clients every year. I say, STOP DOING THAT!
Don't get me wrong. I'm the last person to cut back on the generation of goodwill, but I believe there is a better way to spend the money.
Let me explain. If your clients are anything like my clients, they probably receive 200 cards at Christmas and the majority of them go in the bin (trust me, it's most likely yours is one of them). So I stopped sending Christmas cards years ago. I now send "Happy November 27" cards!
I got a card printed that said on the front "Happy November 27" and when you open it up it says "I bet you get a lot of cards wishing you happy December 25. How many do you receive wishing you happy November 27? Well, happy November 27". And on the card I write a personal note to my clients and the people that I've met and want to do business with in the next 12 months.
I follow the card up with a "how's things?" phone call and I found out that all of my clients get heaps of cards on December 25 and they don't remember who sent it to them but my clients all get ONE card on November 27 and every one of them remembers who sends it to them. My best result from the cards was in 1994 when I generated over $20,000 of seminar work from the cards because they were different and helped me stick in my customers' minds.
Let me give you three good reasons why I choose not to send Christmas cards. Firstly, it costs the same to send your goodwill cards on November 27 (or any date you choose. If you're an Australian company, send them on Australia Day) as it does to send them on December 25.
Secondly, if you send them at Christmas time, everybody closes down. By sending them on November 27, I can follow up with the "how's things?" phone call in early December and write business for next year.
The point I'm making is that you should do something different. Don't just do things because you've always done them. Challenge yourself to defend why you do things and, more importantly, ask if there is a better way to get an improved result. The IT industry is a classic example of where the same things are done every year and the results don't change.
The industry is plagued by discounting so that hardware has virtually become a commodity and the concept of "value added" means throwing in freebies rather than truly adding value - and resellers wonder why margins have gone from 40 per cent to single figures in the last dozen years!!
Sometimes ideas out of left field are our best business generators. A Sydney petrol station proprietor used a quote of the week on a blackboard outside the station to generate business. He offered $100 for the motorist that came up with the funniest quote and the proprietor reckons he did $3000 a week in incremental petrol sales. Not only that, he got publicity from a radio station that used to quote what was on the blackboard as part of its breakfast program. Nothing to do with petrol? True. Clever? Yep!
A mid-north Queensland video store offered FREE DOG PARKING by putting out bowls of water and some dog biscuits for pets and their owners. Every dog owner in town rents their videos from that store and they are more expensive than their competition.
A Melbourne hairdresser was very upset with the local paper when the photo in its advertisement appeared upside down by mistake. That is, until the ad produced twice as much business as normal (because it was different and people noticed it).
You don't necessarily have to do radical things to make an impact. Just do SOMETHING different. In the competitive world, our prospective customers judge us by our differences, not our similarities.
What if a reseller organised a networking function for its clients just so they could meet each other and possibly do business with each other? What if resellers put jokes and cartoons in their newsletter along with hints and tips and articles on customer service that would improve their clients' business? What if resellers also put a couple of testimonial letters from satisfied clients talking about the great service in the window instead of "40 PER CENT OFF"?
I challenge you to take a long, hard look at the way you do business and if you're not doing anything differently year-in/year-out and you're expecting different results . . . YOU'RE INSANE!
Martin Grunstein recently spoke at Siltek's Asia-Pacific reseller conference at Hamilton Island. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org